Karthik blitz helps South recover to 329
Central Zone 30 for no loss trail South Zone 329 (Karthik 153, Suresh 58*, Umesh Yadav 5 for 76) by 299 runs
Dinesh Karthik's stunning century transformed the tempo of South Zone's innings as they recovered from a hopeless situation at 86 for 6 to a healthy 329. Their last four wickets added 243 at a rate of almost 5.5 an over as Central Zone's bowlers, particularly their spinners, were at the receiving end of a ruthless counter-attack after being on top for the first half of the day. Umesh Yadav, the fast bowler from Vidarbha, finished with figures of 5 for 76 and was the most impressive of his team's bowlers, accounting for the big wickets of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman to seize the early advantage before having it crushed by Karthik's blazing innings.
Umesh - who picked up his second five-wicket haul in his fifth first-class match and averaged 14.60 before this - came on first change, and bowled incutters with relentess frequency, and also unsettled the batsmen with the away swinger and the odd bouncer. He came into the act after fast bowler Pankaj Singh had removed the openers, who gave South Zone's innings a sound start.
Robin Uthappa was harsh on anything bowled on his legs, stroking four boundaries on his way to 22 before edging Pankaj to slip off a ball that swung away. Pankaj then got rid of Abhinav Mukund, who was prolific in the Ranji Trophy, but struggled in his innings of 13, surviving a couple of close lbw shouts before being caught-behind. Mukund's fall triggered a middle-order collapse: South lost their next four wickets for 33 runs in 15 overs, as the experience of three of their most experienced batsmen failed to measure up to some quality fast bowling by Central - and Umesh in particular. Dravid was caught when an inside-edge onto his pads lobbed up to short midwicket and Laxman played an irresponsible waft away from his body to an outswinger to be caught-behind. Badrinath edged a catch to slip while reaching for a drive facing Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who impressed in the Ranji final, and soon enough South were in danger of being bowled out for under 150.
Karthik, though, executed his plans brilliantly. He went berserk in the second session as no bowler was spared in his 113-ball blitz; 120 of his runs came in boundaries. He rode his luck, surviving a couple of close lbw calls and a tough chance dropped at slip by Murali Kartik, and treated spinners with disdain, using the slog-sweep against the turn with aplomb. Karthik was ably supported by R Ashwin - who top-edged a pull two balls after Umesh brought in a short leg - and M Suresh, whose contribution of 58 also involved an important couple of partnerships with No's 10 and 11, adding 39 for those two wickets. Suresh was solid in defense and his innings was laced with some well-timed off drives and his most preferred shot, the cut. Karthik eventually fell to Umesh, holing out to mid-off but not before averting an embarrassing capitulation on a pitch that eased out considerably after lunch. Balaji followed to a comical misjudgment, ducking to what he though was a bouncer, only to find his middle stump pegged back.
The Central openers played out the day to add 30 runs before the close.